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Always a Good Time To Start New

Escaping to a luxury retreat or finding wellness at home, follow these 5 tips to live in joy and greater fulfillment.

Testing physical limits on a fitness course.
Testing physical limits on a fitness course.

It’s that time of year we starting thinking of the changes we’d like to make. Maybe it’s time to look at new beginnings, not as resolutions, but as small life changes we can implement today, tomorrow, any day of the year. It’s time to pick ourselves up and find our flow again; time to reconnect with ourselves and indulge in some seriously needed self-care.

Recently I visited the newest of the Canyon Ranch properties located just outside of San Francisco in the beautiful redwoods of Woodside, California. Priding itself as the leader of luxury, destination retreats for 40 years, Canyon Ranch’s Woodside location marks a bit of a departure from those in Lennox, Las Vegas and the original in Tucson. Think of Woodside as a customizable retreat rather than a hotel, easily accessible in the Bay Area for two days, a week-long stay or longer. While the other locations have set programs, directions and offerings, Canyon Ranch Woodside is more choose your own adventure. Select those activities to help your mind, body and soul unwind, relax and energize while experimenting with some self-care techniques perhaps we haven’t thought of.

Detach

Sound & Sunrise at Canyon Ranch Woodside.
Sound & Sunrise at Canyon Ranch Woodside.
Treehouse Bedroom.
Treehouse Bedroom.
Have a Swim.
Have a Swim.

It’s all but certain every one of us stretches ourselves too thin, takes on too much and never seems to accomplish as much as we or society demands. We expect more and more of ourselves, but all too often we fail to realize by checking out, our time checked back in can become more efficient, productive and yes, more joyful. The desire to re-energize is universal. Give yourself the opportunity to detach. Treat yourself to some time away from the grind and enjoy your version of luxury. Maybe it’s an afternoon of solitude spent by the beach, a simple walk in a nearby park or perhaps it’s a retreat like one at Canyon Ranch. By removing ourselves from our daily responsibilities and intentionally throwing ourselves into new surroundings that call for reflection and meditation, we set ourselves up for renewal.

In an environment that speaks peace, we’re able to do activities we might normally do, such as hiking, but with a deeper appreciation and a new-found appreciation. During my time at the ranch not only do I explore the grounds by hiking, I run a long trail through the protected forests adjacent to the property. The sensation of the rain against my skin, the earthy, mossy aroma of the giant redwoods and crackle of branches above seemingly conspire to aid my sense of flow as my feet glide over the rolling hills of this forest with a wild exuberance. I am one with nature. A routine activity practiced in a new setting opens the senses, those physical and those of spirit, to experiencing it with greater enjoyment. We can disconnect in order to reconnect with why we fell in love with all those things we enjoy in the first place.

Embrace Change

Enjoy a New Challenge.
Enjoy a New Challenge.

I’m sure you already have a couple physical activities you use to further your health and wellness. A gym routine. Pilates. Swimming. Maybe, like me, you enjoy a rigorous yoga practice that stretches the muscles, challenges endurance and makes us sweat as much as any treadmill sprint. Every once in awhile it’s worth tossing up all we know about our chosen activities to look at them anew. Change things up! Not only does the body get stronger when we keep it on it’s metaphorical toes, but we can find an appreciation, an enjoyment, for another way while keeping our minds agile.

Quiet Mornings taking in Nature.
Quiet Mornings taking in Nature.

It’s this flexibility that is often said to keep us youthful. In fact, Deanna, program director at Canyon Ranch Woodside aims to create an environment where adults reconnect with their inner child and learn to play again. As she guides me through the on-site, outdoor fitness course we climb over a six-foot tall wall, pull ourselves up long fishing ropes, swing from monkey bars and run a loop with ten pound bags thrown over our shoulders. We fall in the mud, get our elbows dirty and most importantly, laugh in the moment. Moving indoors I join a yoga session during which the instructor purposely designs the class against what I normally expect from my practice. While still opening the hips, elongating the chest and finding space in the upper back, we focus more on a slow, gentle mediation. Being flexible and open to change with a humble desire to continual learning, physically we grow while our emotional center finds understanding, confidence and a greater sense of ease.

Take a Class

Journal to Release, Create and Ponder.
Journal to Release, Create and Ponder.

Ever wonder how to blow glass? What’s it like to feel wet clay between your fingers as you shape pottery? Maybe you’ve always wanted to speak German? All too often our minds initiate a desire that we just as quickly find a reason not to follow through on. For years I thought “one day I’ll run a 50 mile race,” but did nothing to work towards the goal. I wasn’t even a runner at the time! Once I began the training, I joined a class during which I quickly realized running is a personal passion of mine. That inner voice encouraging us to take on that new endeavor, it’s the one worth following. The voice of doubt, of “I’m not enough,” of excuses- that voice literally gets us nowhere. Listening to our inner most desires, experimenting with them and finding healthy ways to implement them into our lives makes us more well-rounded individuals capable of whatever we set our minds to.

One evening at Canyon Ranch Woodside I pop into a small class gathered for The Power Of Journaling during which the five of us participants look at the spiritual benefits of keeping a journal. As someone who has a daily gratitude practice, this seminar helps me to look at journal keeping in a new light. Setting aside a few minutes of every day exclusively as my own, in order to write down thoughts, feelings and perspective can be an incredibly useful tool in developing them further or in letting them go. While we don’t need to be with others to write, there is something about coming together in a group to collectively focus on an activity. After given prompts to write about, we discuss, find areas of common ground and encourage each other forward. This is the power of a class, even with an activity so individual as journal writing. Listen to that voice. Find a class to help develop it. Focus. Allow yourself to be pushed and held accountable.

Canyon Ranch Woodside, a Retreat into Wellness.
Canyon Ranch Woodside, a Retreat into Wellness.

Be Spontaneous

Yes, we all know and understand the value of having and executing a well thought out plan. But when was the last time you changed it up in the heat of the moment? Being confident in our plans, in our own bodies, gives us the ability to approach life with an open mind. We can always return back to the plans we made or what it is we know; in the meantime, say yes more. Say yes to new adventures. Say yes to spending the afternoon with that friend you’ve put off because life has gotten in the way. Allow yourself to live in the moment and discover joy in unexpected places.

There’s great value in saying yes to last minute ideas both with long-term plans and in daily activities. Hiking is an activity I gravitate to when given a choice. But while enjoying an incredible lunch at Canyon Ranch Woodside I’m introduced to the retreat’s Tai Chi instructor. We strike up a light conversation. My curiosity peaks. He is to begin a class in minutes, just as I have a guided hike planned. Giving myself the freedom to be spontaneous, I step into Tai Chi. I choose the activity simply because it’s something I’ve never done.

Yoga.
Yoga.
Morning in the Redwoods
Morning in the Redwoods

During the class I learn new techniques to attach movements to calm, deep breathes. I realize I’m a forty year old an endurance runner who repetitively works the same muscles during my training, but here I am moving my body through choreography it’s never done before. Sure, at times I falter in understanding the movements, but I take a moment, regroup and begin again. When it connects, there’s a gentle flow of mind, body and spirit moving as one. A willingness to be spontaneous while humbly step into something new and feeling our way through it can lead to great, unexpected rewards.

Live With Intention

Set goals, big or small and focus.
Set goals, big or small and focus.

What is important in your life? How do you want to feel everyday? Are there values you hold at this stage in life that you didn’t in another? When we answer fundamental questions, we give ourselves a path, a direction. In taking time to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and most importantly, where we’d like to go, we begin developing a life of purpose. Instead of viewing life as something that happens to us, it’s much more fulfilling to take active ownership and create the life of our dreams.

Before departing my three day retreat, I select a one-on-one course at Canyon Ranch Woodside. Cultivating a Life of Purpose. Spending an hour with a certified life coach, we immediately dive deep into a wide-ranging discussion during which she encourages a holistic life review of what’s important and how am I living out the four dimensions of wellness: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It’s a comprehensive reflection on how the dimensions intersect, how I spend my resources and how my thoughts, beliefs and emotions align with my desires. Underneath it all, it’s an exercise in love and acceptance of who I am and who I want to be. This is self-care of the highest order. In allowing ourselves to dream and use our imaginations to form the lives we want, the Universe immediately begins to align.

Treehouse Suite, Canyon Ranch Woodside.
Treehouse Suite, Canyon Ranch Woodside.

This year make quality self-care a top priority. I can hear you now… “But isn’t that so selfish.” Yes. It is. But it’s also the greatest gift we can give those around us. In taking time for ourselves while nurturing positive lives of health and wellness, we become gentler, more compassionate, more focused, souls capable of enjoying all life has to offer from its challenges to those days when it all just flows!

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